With RNC chair Reince Priebus blasting NBC and CNN for running Hillary Clinton-focused entertainment as she prepares to launch a presidential bid, both broadcasters have come under pressure from across the political spectrum to rethink their programming decisions. Yesterday, that pressure came from inside NBC, as Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough described it as climbing inside the, er, anatomy of the Clinton organization. Today, Chuck Todd added his voice to the criticism, calling the NBC decision a “total nightmare” for its news division that leaves it owning the negatives, with no upside at all:
“This mini series is a total nightmare for NBC News,” Todd said. “There’s this giant firewall, we have nothing to do with it, we know that we’d love probably to be as critical, or whatever it is going to be, if it comes out. But there’s nothing we can do about it.”
“We’re going to only own the negatives,” he continued. “Whether it’s negative because it’s the Clinton people are upset that it’s too tough on them, or negative because the Republicans think it’s this glorification of her—no matter what, only we are going to own it, because people are going to see the peacock and NBC and see NBC News and think: ‘Well, they can’t be that separate.'”
“You get the negative and they get the cash,” Joe Scarborough said.
Nothing to do with it? The giant firewall to which Todd refers has enough open doorways to allow news anchor Brian Williams to make plenty of humorous cameos on 30 Rock for the Entertainment division’s benefit, and the Today show certainly straddles that firewall on a regular basis, too. MSNBC isn’t exactly a hard-news effort, for that matter, as the channel’s management readily admits. NBC will spend millions airing this miniseries, probably just on Diane Lane’s salary alone, and that speaks to a certain organizational commitment that talk of “giant firewalls” just can’t erase.
Priebus appeared later on the same show to emphasize the point:
“I don’t think there’s a real difference there,” he said. “I think people see NBC…in the business of news, in the business of entertainment, they’re trying to do well in all of those areas, but I have to tell you there are times when there are decisions that are made by NBC, whether it’s entertainment or whether it’s news, that are going to have an effect over the entire brand. The umbrella brand might suffer because of the decisions that are made.”
He also told Mika Brzezinski that the RNC would not choose to sanction a debate with her as the moderator, thanks to her outspoken partisan views on politics:
“But I’m not going to have you moderate the Republican debate,” Priebus said. When Nicole Wallace asked why not, he continued, “Because you’re not actually interested in the future of the Republican Party and our nominees. That’s not a slam on you, Mika, but I have to choose moderators that are actually interested in the Republican Party and our nominees. It’s not going to be NBC, if they continue to go forward with this miniseries.”
“I think Mika would be great,” co-host Joe Scarborough said.
So who would Priebus choose? Well … I’m almost too shy to tell you. Almost.
Hot Air is, of course, a subsidiary of Salem Communications, which makes this a debate proposal I can enthusiastically support. Seriously, though, as much as I’d love to moderate a debate on Salem’s airwaves — or more to the point, see Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and/or Michael Medved do so — why not take the debates in house, as I suggested earlier this week? No organization has the interests of the party and its candidates closer to its heart than the party itself. Let a small number of candidates, rotating through several events, discuss topics and positions at length in real debates rather than gotcha contests in game-show formats. All that requires is an emcee or facilitator to introduce new topics, and let candidates formulate the questions and answers themselves. Reporters can attend and write about it all they want, and they will, as the media rooms of debates in the last cycle attest.
That would be not only in the best interest of the candidates, but also the voters — and even though they’ll refuse to acknowledge it (except for Chuck Todd, perhaps), it’s even in the best interest of the media. It would allow them to return to reporting rather than performing, and remove any ownership issues with debates that cloud their later reporting on presidential campaigns. Maybe Priebus is doing NBC and CNN a favor, and by extension all of the other media outlets, too.